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Section 3: Construction Regulatory and Advisory Speeds

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Transportation Code, Section 472.022 defines barricades and warning signs and makes it unlawful to disobey their instructions. Studies have shown that in the absence of enforcement no significant differences will occur in drivers’ speeds between sections signed with advisory construction speed signs and with regulatory speed signs.

Transportation Code, Section 472.022 also refers to disobedience of warning signs in construction or maintenance zones.

From the standpoint of enforcement, when a regulatory speed zone has been established and signs are posted, the speed values shown on the signs are the maximum lawful prima facie speeds. An advisory speed sign serves to advise drivers of safe speeds that are recommended for certain roadway conditions, such as horizontal curves. It does aid the enforcement officer, however, in determining reasonable and prudent speeds. A driver might be cited for exceeding the posted value of an advisory speed zone on the grounds that they were driving at a speed that was not reasonable and prudent for the conditions existing at the time and location.

Traffic control in work sites should be designed on the assumption that drivers will only reduce their speeds if they clearly perceive a need to do so; therefore, reduced speed zoning should be avoided as much as practicable.

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Advisory Construction Speeds

Advisory speed plates (CW13-1) in conjunction with construction warning signs can often be used more appropriately than construction regulatory speed signs. The advisory speed can be altered as needed by project conditions, and several different advisory speeds can be used for varying conditions throughout the project. The advisory speed plates are intended to supplement construction warning signs advising drivers of a safe speed to drive through the section signed. See Part 6 of the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices ( TMUTCD) for sign detail and typical application diagrams.

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Regulatory Construction Speed Zones

Regulatory construction speed limits should be used only for sections of construction projects where speed control is of major importance and enforcement is available. Regulatory construction speed signs (R2-1) must be removed during periods when they are not needed to minimize interference with traffic (see Part 6 of the TMUTCD for sign detail).

A misconception that construction speed zones are required to improve TxDOT’s position in the event of a tort claim prompted the Occupational Safety Division to seek an opinion on the matter from the Attorney General’s Office. The response indicated that TxDOT’s best defense against a tort action would be to have strict compliance with the TMUTCD.

According to Part 6 of the TMUTCD, reduced speed zoning should be avoided as much as practicable.

Reduced speeds should only be posted in the vicinity of work being performed and not throughout the entire project.

For example, it may not be desirable to post a construction speed zone when concrete traffic barriers are used in traffic control plans, since these barriers normally provide sufficient protection for the construction workers and the traveling public. In addition, traffic control plan designs should, as much as possible, accommodate the speeds existing prior to construction. These decisions, however, require engineering judgment depending on the nature of the project and other factors which affect the safety of the traveling public and construction workers.

On sections of highway under construction, speed studies and other studies normally made in determining speeds to be posted for a regulatory speed zone are not required. In selecting the speeds to be posted, however, consideration should be given to safe stopping sight distances, construction equipment crossings, the nature of the construction project, and any other factors which affect the safety of the traveling public and construction workers.

Only those speed limits authorized by Transportation Commission minute order, city ordinance, or county ordinance are legal, and no other speed limits should be posted using regulatory speed limit signs. Construction speed zones are automatically canceled when construction is complete.


Request for Regulatory Construction Speed Zones

When a district desires construction speed zoning for projects or portions of a project outside the limits of incorporated cities, the district should prepare and submit TxDOT Form 1204, “Request for Construction Speed Zone,” to the Traffic Operations Division (TRF) for review and processing for Transportation Commission action. The “Request for Construction Speed Zone” form is self-explanatory, with instructions contained on the reverse side. The form is available via hyperlink (click on the form number above) or from TRF.

Cities have the authority to establish construction speed zones within their corporate limits, and this should be encouraged, since the city will likely be responsible for enforcement. However, if a city desires the Transportation Commission to establish the zones, then the district should have a written request from the city on file.

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Advisory Speed Construction Warning Plates (CW13-1)

The CW13-1 ADVISORY SPEED plate may be used in conjunction with any construction warning sign to indicate the maximum safe speed for passenger cars around a curve or through a hazardous location. It shall not be used in conjunction with any sign other than a construction warning sign, nor shall it be used alone.

The CW13-1 plate shall always be mounted on the same post with, and immediately below, the construction warning sign to which it applies.

The CW13-1 plate is classed with the construction warning signs because, when used, it is in effect a part of a construction warning sign.

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Regulatory Construction Speed Limit Signs

R2-1 SPEED LIMIT signs shall be used for signing construction speed zones.

Speed limit signs shall be erected only for the limits of the section of roadway where speed reduction is necessary for the safe operation of traffic and protection of construction personnel. In most cases, this will involve only a short section of roadway where work is in progress, but in some cases, it will involve partially completed sections extending for some distance.

It is imperative that proper speed limits be posted in construction work zones. Improperly posted work zone speed limits adversely affect the flow of traffic by:

  • encouraging driver disrespect for all speed limits
  • endangering the driver who observes an unreasonably low posted speed limit.

The reduced speed limits are effective only within the limits where signs are erected, even though the entire length of the project may be covered by Transportation Commission minute order. Figure 2-3 shows typical signing of a construction speed zone.

 Typical construction speed zone. (click in image to see full-size image) Anchor: #i999228grtop

Figure 2-3. Typical construction speed zone.

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Covering or Removing Temporarily Unnecessary Reduced Speed Signs

If the reduced speed limits are not necessary for the safe operation of traffic during certain construction operations or those days and hours the contractor is not working, the regulatory construction speed limit signs must be made inoperative by one of the following methods:

  • moving the signs to the edge of the right-of-way and facing them away from the roadway or
  • covering the signs when the reduced speed limits are not necessary (care should be taken, however, to delineate the sign post so it does not become an invisible obstacle at night adjacent to the roadway).

Leaving speed limit signs in place when not needed has at least three adverse effects:

  • drivers ignore the signs, and by doing so, they are subject to arrest
  • respect for all speed limit signs is lessened
  • the law abiding driver becomes a traffic hazard by observing the reduced speed.
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Signs Installed by the Contractor

Even though a contractor is allowed to furnish and/or install speed limit signs on a construction project, the engineer must see that the contractor does not erect any signs of their own design with speed limits of their choosing. Except under the immediate direction of the engineer, the contractor has no responsibility whatsoever for the design, location, or maintenance of speed limit signs.

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